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What is Base Training and Why is it Important?

Base training

If you are an athlete, you have probably heard of base training. But what is it, and why is it so important? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about base training, including what it is, why we do it, how to do it based on your level of experience, and when to do it.

Table of Contents

Building an aerobic base is perhaps the single most important phase of the year since it is the foundation upon which your season is built. Many athletes never reach their full potential because they neglect this critical phase of training. 

What is Base Training?

In short, base training is a period of time when athletes train to train, not train to race. It’s a time when athletes focus on building a solid foundation of fitness that will prepare their bodies for the greater stresses that come with more intense training in the build period.

 

Base training is typically divided into three sub-periods of three to four weeks each: base 1, base 2, and base 3. The training stress in each of these periods gradually increases so that by the end of base 3, athletes are much more generally fit than when they started base 1 and are ready to begin training for the specific stresses of racing.

Why is Base Training Important?

Base training is important for several reasons. Here are a few:

  • It allows athletes to build a solid foundation of fitness that will help prevent injury and prepare their bodies for more intense training later on.
  • It helps improve overall endurance, which is critical for success in endurance sports like triathlons, marathons, and cycling races.
  • It helps improve an athlete’s aerobic capacity, which is the ability of the body to use oxygen efficiently during exercise.
  • It helps improve an athlete’s ability to utilize fat as a fuel source during exercise, which is important for endurance events where carbohydrate stores can become depleted.

For these reasons, base training is a critical component of any endurance athlete’s training program.

How to Do Base Training

The specifics of base training can vary depending on an athlete’s level of experience and the sport they are training for. Here are some general guidelines for novice, intermediate, and advanced athletes:

Novice Athletes

If you are new to endurance sports, your base training should focus on building a strong foundation of fitness without overwhelming your body with too much intensity. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with low-intensity workouts that are fully aerobic, meaning you stay within your heart rate zone 2 or its equivalent power and pace.
  • Begin with a prep period of two to six weeks where you focus on low-intensity workouts that you enjoy, such as hiking, aerobics classes, or using aerobic machines at the gym.
  • Gradually increase the length of your aerobic endurance workouts by about 10 to 20 percent each week until you reach your long workout goal durations based on the event for which you are training.

Intermediate Athletes

If you have some experience with endurance sports, your base training should focus on building endurance and increasing the intensity of your workouts gradually. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with a base 1 period that focuses on creating excellent strength for the muscles associated with the movements of swimming, biking, and running. This period should last for about four weeks.
  • Move on to base 2, which starts about 19 weeks before your A-priority race, and introduces sport-specific muscular force training with hill work incorporated into steady, moderate effort bike and run workouts. For swimming, paddles and drag devices will help to create more force.
  • In base 3, which begins about 15 weeks before your A-priority event, introduce muscular endurance training, which involves long intervals in the range of 6 to 12 minutes done at about the lactate threshold with very short recoveries that are about 25 percent of the work interval duration.

Advanced Athletes

If you are an experienced endurance athlete, your base training should focus on building on your existing fitness and pushing your body to new limits. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with a base 1 period that focuses on creating excellent strength for the muscles associated with the movements of swimming, biking, and running. This period should last for about four weeks.
  • Move on to base 2, which starts about 19 weeks before your A-priority race, and introduces sport-specific muscular force training with hill work incorporated into steady, moderate effort bike and run workouts. For swimming, paddles and drag devices will help to create more force.
  • In base 3, which begins about 15 weeks before your A-priority event, introduce muscular endurance training, which involves long intervals in the range of 6 to 12 minutes done at about the lactate threshold with very short recoveries that are about 25 percent of the work interval duration.
  • Incorporate anaerobic intervals, hill repeats, tempo, and bricks into your training during the build period, which follows the base period and starts about 12 weeks before your first A-priority race of the season.

When to Do Base Training

The best time to do base training is during the off-season, when you are not preparing for a specific race.

This is typically in the fall or winter, depending on the sport and your location. By starting your base training early, you will have plenty of time to build a solid foundation of fitness before you begin preparing for your first race of the season.

Conclusion

Base training is a critical component of any endurance athlete’s training program. By focusing on building a solid foundation of fitness during the base period, athletes can prevent injury, improve endurance, and prepare their bodies for more intense training later on. Whether you are a novice or an experienced athlete, incorporating base training into your training program can help you achieve your athletic goals.

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